And Sons: A Novel by David Gilbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This came so close to being a five-star, but the occasional (all right, more than merely "occasional") bout of overwriting and a lack of clarity as to why this was being told by Philip at a remove of several years dropped it down.
The & is important: Ampersand was the brilliant novel written by A.N. Dyer, set at a fictional version of Exeter and loosely based on his friends and experiences. His other novels have also sold well, all seeming to be in the Louis Auchincloss mold of "Upper East Side/St. Grottlesex" lives examined. How this has effected his family (sons Richard, Jamie and Andy) and the son of his best friend, Charlie Topping (the narrator, Philip) is the "sons" part of the title. Clever.
None of the sons is in good shape, Richard is a former junkie, Jamie spends his time filming unwatchable documentaries, Philip has a failed marriage, and Andy (at a mere 17)is aware that he's the reason why A.N. and his wife divorced and that he's mostly tolerated because of his lineage. The first three haven't see each other in years, and Andy has never met his two half-brother. When Philip's father dies, A.N. has a bit of a breakdown and insists that his two older sons come home - he has something to tell them. This sets everything in motion, with several flashbacks to Philip's youth/friendship with Jamie, their relationships with their fathers, etc. As with all these types of books, Deep Truths Are Revealed and Relationships Changed.
Of all the sons, Andy is the most likeable. His combination of insecurity and preternaturally adult wit remind me of many of the boys I've met in the prep school world. The others? We see them negotiating how to be friendly as adults, realizing that they were never really friends as children. It's done well, but sadly, the overwriting at times got in the way. Each section is prefaced with a letter, usually from A.N. to Charlie; because I read this on my Kindle, I couldn't really read the letters (they're handwritten).
ARC provided by publisher.